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Ahead of school year, Central Texas school districts compete for new teachers to avoid staffing shortages

Midway ISD new hire orientation
Posted at 10:55 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-02 14:42:51-04

Higher wages and better benefits are leaving new teachers with a lot of options heading into a new school year as Central Texas school districts compete for staff.

Several area districts, including Waco ISD, Killeen ISD, Midway ISD, Temple ISD, and Belton ISD have announced pay increases for teachers, including a base salary increase for first-time teachers.

District'21-'22 starting pay'22-'23 starting pay
Waco ISD$50,250$51,475
Temple ISD$50,900$52,500
Midway ISD$46,100$47,100
Belton ISD$51,400$53,500
Killeen ISD$52,000$56,160
Copperas Cove ISD$50,000$53,000

Elizabeth Richey is preparing for her first year of teaching as an 8th-grade English teacher at Midway ISD's River Valley Middle School.

She said after graduating from Baylor University in the spring, she found herself with several choices of schools to begin her career.

"I was getting phone calls in April and March being like, 'Hey, we have a job opportunity, do you want it?,'" Richey said. "And I would have to tell them, 'Hey, right now I can't say yes, because I'm waiting on this.' And then whenever I got hired, I had to say no."

She explained while pay is important, district and school culture was also a major factor in her decision-making process.

Waco ISD assistant superintendent of human resources, Dr. Daniel Lopez, agreed that making sure potential hires feel welcome in the district is a crucial part of recruiting.

"I think the most significant role that's played is how a school district makes people feel when they come in the door. Do they have a sense of belonging and a sense of wellbeing in the place of which they work?" Lopez said.

Lopez explained that Waco ISD is facing a much less severe shortage of staff heading into the upcoming school year. The district is hiring for about 80 teaching positions, compared to the roughly 185 openings at the same time last year.

Killeen ISD, which is now the highest-paying school district in Central Texas with a starting base pay of more than $56,000, said they have already hired 165 teachers for the upcoming school year but are still looking to hire 166 more as of Wednesday.

Several districts are also emphasizing teacher retention by increasing pay for veteran teachers as well. Copperas Cove ISD is increasing its pay for teachers with 20 years of experience by as much as $20,000.

Traci Marlin, director of communications for Midway ISD, said that the district had about 150 staff positions, but most have already been filled. She explained that in order to compete with other area districts, Midway has put a lot of effort into marketing the district's benefits.

"Midway is a desirable district, but what we've had to do is actually market ourselves to explain it and tell people and sell ourselves," Marlin said.

Marlin said the district is still struggling to fill positions for special education roles, bus drivers and custodial staff.